The Vietnam War was, for many, a turning point in public opinion about war and peace, and prompted a surge in interest in the pacifism movement, particularly in America. Cinematic narratives of the Vietnam war often represent this change in sentiment, portraying the emotional shock experienced by naive young soldiers, and also a sense of disillusionment about the justification for the war. The war, and particularly the period of US involvement, became ever more controversial as the humanitarian crisis escalated due to aggressive warfare techniques utilised by US forces in an effort to identify and suppress the Viet Cong forces who were much more adept at fighting in the dense Vietnamese jungle.
The Vietnam war spilled into Cambodia and Laos in the late 1960s, prompting nation-wide campus protests across America. The Cambodian genocide, at the hands of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, who seized power as Cambodia was weakened from it's position on the periphery of Vietnam, was a period of intense and almost indiscriminate persecution. The campaign of terror against civilians, ultimately costing the lives of an estimated two million, has also been the source of some notable films, The Killing Fields probably best known amongst them. Taking its name from the notorious massacre sites, this film explores the complex moral issue of war journalism, as Schanberg's quest to follow the genocide from within Cambodia risks the lives of those who help him deliver the horrific story back to America.
- Vietnam War protest: Washington DC 1971. Author Leena Krohn (own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Source:https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AVietnam_War_protest_in_Washington_DC_April_1971.jpg
Born on the Fourth of July (1989) Drama based on the book by Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic. Patriotic and God-fearing Kovic joins the Marines and almost immediately is deployed to Vietnam where he is badly wounded. Returning home paralysed from the chest down, Kovic's life begins to spiral out of control as his faith in God, his country and the war are worn down by the impact of his injuries. Kovic eventually finds solace and purpose in the anti-war movement. (Directed by Oliver Stone.)
The Deer Hunter (1978) Drama focusing on the impact of the Vietnam war on the American soldiers who took part. Friends Michael, Steven and Nick escape from Viet Cong captivity, but the torture they endured remains with them. After returning home, Michael's efforts to reintegrate his friends to their old lives takes a horrific turn as he discovers the full extent of the emotional damage their war experience has caused. (Directed by Michael Cimino.)
Hearts and Minds (1974) Documentary which was released soon after the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam, but which traces the changing views of the soldiers and civilians at home as the war goes on and public sympathy for the conflict wanes. (Director Peter Davis.)
In Country (1989) Adapted from the book of the same name, In Country stars Bruce Willis as a Vietnam veteran still emotionally recovering from his war experience. Emmett’s (Willis) niece lost her father in the same war, and both characters are struggling to find their identities in post-war America. (Directed by Norman Jewison.)
The Killing Fields (1984) An adaptation of an eyewitness magazine story by New York Times correspondent Sidney Schanberg. Covering the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975, Schanberg (Sam Waterston) relies on his Cambodian friend and translator Dith Pran (Haing S. Ngor) for help. Refusing to leave with the American evacuation, or to help Dith Pran leave, Schanberg remains in Cambodia, but is racked with guilt when Dith Pran is captured by the Khmer Rouge. (Directed by Roland Joffé.)
Platoon (1986) Based on the real experience of director Oliver Stone, Platoon tells the story of Chris, (Charlie Sheen) a naïve young soldier who arrives in Vietnam to discover that he faces more than the Viet Cong, as he witnesses the battle of wills between his commanding officers, and the physical and emotional turbulence of the war. (Directed by Oliver Stone.)
The War (1994) Vietnam war veteran Kevin Costner is battling Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, while observing his children and their friends’ own war with a rival group of children. The economic and social impact of his Vietnam history remain at the forefront of his life throughout. (Directed by Jon Avnet.)
Synopses and film descriptions for In Country, The Killing Fields, and The War, sourced from Amazon.co.uk (http://www.amazon.co.uk/)